The job market paper of Steven Rogers entitled “Accountability in a Federal System: How Parties Perform in Office and State Legislative Elections” highlights a reason why accountability may be weak under powerful state political systems.
ABSTRACT: Theories of political accountability suggest that governing parties and their members should be electorally punished when they perform poorly in office. However, I find little evidence of this type of accountability in state legislatures. State legislative elections are not referendums on state legislators’ own performance but are instead dominated by national politics. Presidential evaluations and the national economy matter much more for state legislators’ elections than state-level economic conditions, state policy outcomes, or voters’ assessments of the legislature. Previous analyses of state legislative elections fail to consider which party controls the state legislature and whether voters know this information. When accounting for these factors, I discover that even when the legislature performs well, misinformed voters mistakenly reward the minority party. Thus, while state legislatures wield considerable policy-making power, elections are ineffective in holding state legislative parties accountable for their own performance and lawmaking.
HT: Marginal Revolution